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British children of Islamic State members will not be brought back to UK: Report

UK government decides it would be too dangerous to send military or civilian personnel to rescue them from Syria
A child at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria housing displaced civilians and suspected IS family members (AFP)

The children of British members of Islamic State who have UK citizenship will not be brought back to Britain from Syria as it would be too dangerous to rescue them, the UK government has reportedly decided.

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The decision, made after a cross departmental review, was one of the last acts of Home Secretary Sajid Javid before his promotion to chancellor last month, according to The Times newspaper.

Javid was said to have decided that it was not safe to dispatch military or civilian personnel to rescue the babies and minors from camps in northern Syria.

Officials looked at options to allow relatives living in Britain to adopt the children, as well as provisions in the care system.

However, there were concerns that parents who had been stripped of their British citizenship could use their repatriated children to reclaim citizenship under human rights laws.

'Callous and inhumane'

The fate of such children gained attention after the birth and subsequent death of a son, Jarrah, born to Shamima Begum, who ran away from London with two other schoolgirls aged 15 to join IS in 2015.

Heavily pregnant, she was found in a refugee camp in Syria in February where she pleaded to come home to Britain. 

Javid, however, revoked her citizenship, with the opposition Labour party describing the baby’s subsequent death as the result of a “callous and inhumane” decision by the government.

Among other organisations that were critical of the move, Save the Children said the death was “avoidable”.

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Citizenship can only be removed from dual nationals and where there is a “risk to national security” as to leave a person stateless is illegal under international law.

Javid argued he did not believe that depriving Begum of her nationality would make her stateless as he believed she was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship.

However, Bangladesh's foreign minister has said that Begum could be hanged for terrorism charges if she lands in Bangladesh. 

About 900 British citizens left the UK to join the self-declared IS "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq, of whom 400 were thought to have returned as of March this year, according to The Times.

At least 10 percent have been prosecuted and about 150 are thought to have died, it said.

In April, a Home Office minister Susan Williams said in a written response that "a small number" of British children had been allowed back into the UK over the past year via third countries.

Williams gave no further detail on the age of the children or whether they had come back from territory controlled by the Islamic State group. 

However, she said it was the government's stance that it would not put the lives of UK officials at risk to assist individuals who left Britain to join "proscribed terrorist groups".